Vienna was site of famous duel

 

Vienna, whose remnants lie beneath today’s Thurmond Lake, was a tidy Colonial town with its own tailor, a blacksmith and two fine hotels.

On a Saturday morning in 1851, it was also the chosen venue for a famous duel between two prominent Augustans.

The feud, according to historical accounts, was over an article in Augusta’s Chronicle and Sentinel newspaper authored by a “Dr. Thomas.”

The doctor’s blunt words so enraged associate editor J.M. Smyth of the rival Constitutionalist & Republic that a fight to the death was arranged.

On Sept. 27, 1851, the combatants and their respective entourages traveled about 35 miles up the Savannah River to the McCormick County, S.C., town, each vowing to kill the other.

The men marched, turned and fired – and both shots missed. A second round had the same result.

“Upon the third fire, the ball passed through Smyth’s right thigh, and nearly through the left, but the wound is not considered mortal,” according to an account published on Oct. 1, 1851, in The New York Times. “He reached Augusta on Sunday night and is doing well.”

Thomas, the story said in conclusion, “was not touched.”

While it remains unclear whether the feud in Augusta was deemed settled, Vienna – established in the late 1700s as a shipping hub for cotton and tobacco – was already bound for extinction because of the decline of tobacco and commerce along the river.

In his book, The Making of McCormick County, author Bobby F. Edmonds described the vanished village as the area’s first commercial center, located just five miles from today’s Mount Carmel community. It was also the place where travelers forded the Savannah River, and it was a stop on a short-lived stagecoach route from Milledgeville, Ga., to Washington D.C.

“Not only did Vienna outdistance (the S.C. town of) Ninety Six as a trade center, but it was considered a distinct rival of Augusta,” Edmonds wrote.

James Calhoun, the brother of statesman John C. Calhoun, operated a store in Vienna, as did Alexander Noble, the brother of Patrick Noble, a politician who in 1838 became South Carolina’s governor.

Vienna was also one of the places where famed Presbyterian educator Moses Waddel established his schools that led – eventually – to the famous academy in nearby Willington, S.C.

According to historical accounts, Waddel lived in Columbia County’s Appling community – near Augusta – where he founded his first “log cabin academy” before moving to Vienna in 1801 to establish a school there. Three years later he moved to Willington, where he remained until 1819, when he became president of Franklin College – known today as University of Georgia.

 

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119, or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

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DUEL AT VIENNA, SOUTH CAROLINA

A duel was fought on Saturday between Mr. Smyth, an associate editor of The Augusta Constitutionalist, and Dr. Thomas, of Augusta, at Vienna, S.C. The cause of the duel was an article signed “Doctor” in The Chronicle and Sentinel, offensive to Smyth, of which Thomas avowed himself to be the author. Upon the third fire the ball passed through Smyth’s right thigh, and nearly through the left, but the wound is not considered mortal – he reached Augusta on Sunday night and is doing well. Thomas was not touched.

– The New York Times,

Oct. 1, 1851

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